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Welcome to See Through News

Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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See Through News Enterprises – measurable carbon reduction for Big Business

see through news enterprises big business carbon drawdown projects ESG CSR

Our commercial spin-off funds our Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown goal by helping corporations meet ESG requirements

The benefits of zero budget

Since 2021, See Through News has developed a wide range of stand-alone projects designed to measurably reduce carbon.

All are based on our engagement methodology of how to make the Inactive become Active, and are focused on Unwilling Inactivists – i.e. those who accept the reality and science of human-induced climate change, but who feel powerless to do anything about it.

The STN volunteers who created these projects are experienced professionals in various forms of creative communication. Many have run various businesses, of different sizes, in a range of sectors.

Some came from a corporate background where such skills are labelled as ‘project management’, ‘digital marketing’ or ‘outcome delivery’. Others from the world of TV news, advertising and performance arts, who talk of ‘creativity’, ‘originality’, and ‘storytelling’.

What our volunteers have in common is decades of experience in creating, developing and delivering original, complex projects to tight deadlines and budget.

For See Through News, the budgets were zero. Volunteers donate their creative, administrative, strategic and executive skills for free. We spread them via a social media network that leverages social media platforms’ free infrastructure to accumulate unique, direct access to a rapidly growing global audience. STN’s global reach is well into six figures and is rising exponentially at double digits per month.

The projects are diverse, but all guided by See Through News’s pragmatic Goal of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change by measurably reducing carbon.

The See Through Carbon Competition was a spectacular demonstration of the power of zero budget. There’s no better guarantor of integrity than not having a bank account, which is why we received an unsolicited, no-strings-attached donation to the value of half a million dollars.

There are also many operational upsides to not having a bank account and being 100% driven by committed volunteers: agility, speed of response, guaranteed commitment.

The downsides of zero budget

Money can be sludge, but it can also be lubricant. 

And, of course, money is also essential sustenance for those who share the See Through News Goal, but are not in a position to volunteer. 

Volunteering is fine for people with enough money or spare time, but if you’re young, poor, and/or from the Global South (i.e. most people) volunteering is an unaffordable luxury.

To grow, spread, be inclusive and diverse, See Through News must find ways to generate money,and channel it to people who need it. There’s no shortage of talent, time, energy and creativity, but work experience, connections, mentoring, exposure aren’t enough if you have to pay the rent, or feed a family.

The value of money in promoting carbon drawdown

Another downside of operating without money is that, for better or worse, many people take free things for granted.

In a world driven by money, charging certain people for certain services is a shortcut to being taken seriously.

See Through News’ ambition is to demote making money from its current dominant status as the metric by which we value and assess human activity, and replace it with reducing carbon.

But in the meantime, money talks.

Why not set up a charity?

The obvious option for organisations with non-commercial, altruistic missions is to set up as a charitable organisation.

This too has drawbacks. Formal registration as a charity is expensive, onerous and time-consuming. These hurdles are to prevent fraud, but also suck up a lot of time and energy.

A quicker, easier option is to set up as a not-for-profit company. This, however, is still bureaucratically burdensome, and more expensive than establishing a regular off-the-shelf company. 

Whichever option you choose, the question of how to raise money remains.

We’re all familiar with the variety of fundraising options: auctions, dinners, events, cake sales, whist drives, crowdfunding etc.. Anyone who’s ever volunteered to run one also knows how time-consuming they can be for very modest outcomes. ‘Raising awareness’ outcomes aside, it often would have been cheaper and less effort for volunteers to stump up cash themselves, and avoid all the hassle.

Registered charities and NGOs can, of course, also apply for funding from individual, institutional, corporate or government donors.

But again, anyone who’s worked in this field knows how crowded the charity/NGO route is. Progress is slow, competition is high, and funding is often short-term. You find yourself back at square one , exhausted, in an eternal game of funding application Snakes and Ladders.

There another option, which is the one we’ve taken – providing commercial services to winkle cold hard cash from cold-eyed businesses.

If nothing else, this would prove our projects have recognisable value in the ‘real’ world. Getting companies to pay you could be seen as more persuasive evidence our our projects’ quality than conventional fund-raising. The risk of mission-contamination is also obvious.

If only there were some way of doing both – generating money, without compromising the mission.  

Fortunately, we’ve found one, which is why we’ve registered See Through News Enterprise Ltd., and created a bank account for it.

Our Houdini-like escape route has an acronym – ESG.

A Brief History of ESG

We’ve described the recent explosion of ESG in another article, but here’s how an online guide for small businesses describes Environmental, Social and Governance:

ESG is a collective term for a business’s impact on the environment and society as well as how robust and transparent its governance is in terms of company leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights. It measures how your business integrates environmental, social, and governance practices into operations, as well as your business model, its impact, and its sustainability.

Some of this ground is covered by the more familiar term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, but ESG is rapidly replacing CSR for the obvious reason that it includes the overwhelmingly most important issue of the Environment.

A blunter description of ESG is that it’s a company’s answer to the question: 

‘What do you do that doesn’t involve making more money?’.

As the existential threat of human-induced climate change becomes a reality, and the planet warms, ESG too is becoming a hotter and hotter topic. Increasingly, ESG is not a matter of choice – what were once corporate ‘concerns’ are becoming mandated by government regulation. 

Any company with a serious long-term sustainability strategy – even Big Oil companies that don’t – knows ESG reporting requirements will only become stricter.

We may be a long way behind where we need to be, but hard-headed business owners – even climate deniers – know the direction of travel is for more ESG, not less.

There’s also public opinion, and in-house reputation. Demonstrating you’re serious about the environment, net zero and carbon drawdown is increasingly critical to: 

  • satisfy regulators
  • reassure shareholders
  • recruit and retrain employees
  • convince greenwash-sceptic customers
  • explain to your children and grandchildren what you’re doing for their futures

That’s why ESG is important, and getting more important.

A happy accident

As our article explains, the term ‘ESG’ is, unfortunately, used in two quite different contexts.

Much recent negative publicity is related to what we call ‘external ESG’, i.e. finance companies fraudulently badging dodgy investment funds with ‘ESG’ stickers in order to charge a premium. A particularly cynical and damaging blend of corporate greed and greenwashing.

Then there’s the ‘internal ESG’ described in the definition quoted above- how companies apply ESG principles to their own activities and employees.

Here’s the happy accident. As big businesses heard about See Through News’s various pilot projects, we were surprised – and initially suspicious or baffled – when they started asking us to ‘deliver’ them for their ESG programmes.

Our initial response was, ‘no need to ask permission – they’re all open source, with detailed descriptions freely available via our website – help yourselves’. 

But this wasn’t what these companies needed. For a start, they’re used to paying professionals for services. They have no problem in principle with paying us to deliver projects we’d designed to be free. Not only do they have statutory, in-house obligations to fulfil, but ESG budgets to spend. Because ESG emerged from CSR, suitable, quality, tested ‘E’ projects are in short supply.

See Through News may be a zero-budget network of committed volunteers, but in our projects they saw a high-quality out-sourced supplier of turnkey, oven-ready, highly engaging ESG projects.

Not only did they not mind paying us for our professional services, their ESG policies demanded that they should. 

Strings Attached?

We expected such corporate interest would come with strings attached, requiring unacceptable compromises to suit their interests but not ours, but have been pleasantly surprised.

For example, multinational fintech giant Finastra asked See Through News to provide mentoring services for their flagship ESG project. Their Youth Hackathon, a global competition in its 5th year, is open to all comers, but they have a mentoring budget to ensure they get high quality entries from children without the benefits of expensive education.

This year, the theme of the competition was meeting Net Zero goals, so completely aligned with the See Through News Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown. They introduced to us a school in a slum district of Nairobi, Kenya, and we were happy to help.

The competition ran for a month, but we only started getting involved 3 weeks before the deadline. Fortunately, for our experienced TV producer volunteers, this was plenty of time.

The team adapted various existing projects to create a new one, the See Through News Global Reporter Intensive Training (GRIT) Scheme, with remarkable results.

This YouTube playlist shows examples of films produced:

  • All 20 films were made by a hundred 10-15 year old children from schools in the Nairobi slum of Mathare, helped by 5 teachers.
  • None had any previous filmmaking experience.
  • The only equipment they had were 2 second-hand laptops, 4 cheap Chinese smartphones with limited memory, and a sometimes-unreliable internet connection.
  • The GRIT course ran for 6 consecutive days, with daily video sessions of around an hour, supplemented by online communication, monitoring and feedback.
  • The course mentors were all professional broadcast veterans with extensive training experience.
  • All the films were entered into an international competition in its 5th year – two of them won prizes.

Show me the money

Getting 20 Hackathon entries ready by the deadline was a huge – and massively enjoyable – experience for children, teachers and mentors alike.

Then Finastra asked See Through News to submit our invoice for ESG services rendered.

It was at this point we concluded not only that it would be churlish to keep trying to stop companies from thrusting money into our non-existent pockets, but this could be what we’d been looking for – a means to channel money to people who supported our Goal, but couldn’t afford to volunteer.

We could find keen, but impecunious young people, train them to deliver STN projects designed to reduce carbon, and pay them using corporate ESG funds. Win-win-win-win.

So we registered See Through News Enterprises with Companies House as a limited-by-guarantee company, opened a bank account, and have set up shop.

We’re working on a separate website. While we set up, here’s an initial selection…

STN Enterprises Product Range

The website is packed with potential projects, but here are a few that have so far attracted the most corporate interest, repackaged as ESG services.

Skills-based volunteering

  • See Through Games  is a key project to measurably reduce carbon. If your company’s employees have coding, video-game or project management skills, they can contribute them to convert our proven real-world games into scalable online versions. Volunteers made this draft explanatory video explaining how it works, and what’s required.
  • See Through Carbon Competition: a supercomputer-grade cloud computing for Global South Sustainability. Our pilot competition awarded US$500,000-worth of cloud processing to projects benefiting Global South-related research projects which would otherwise have access to such technology. Having proved the concept, we’re now working with various partners to make the Competition permanent, rolling, more comprehensive, and bigger. Companies with project management/cloud architecture skills and internal skills-based volunteer programmes could make these employee contributions a donation-in-kind.

Community-based volunteering

  • Our One Sunday Morning, 4 Films: doing good in… pilot conducted in Finchley, London, can be deployed anywhere in the world. This ‘unique experiment in community filmmaking’ celebrates and exemplifies local community volunteering. It takes place over a couple of months, involving many different community groups and culminating in a World Premiere screening event showcasing the results.
  • The  Global Reporter Intensive Training (GRIT) scheme mentioned above. See Through News threw 6 broadcast media professionals at this project, with a combined decades of professional filmmaking and visual communication training experience. Company employees with appropriate skills could be involved in any part of the project, and/or as participants.

Employee Engagement

ESG programmes often involve raising employee consciousness on environmental issues, ‘employee engagements’ or ‘thought leadership’ in corporate jargon.  Projects we’ve designed for the general public are perfectly suitable for mass employee engagement, with the added bonus of being really good fun.

  • The Think Game: a compelling game that works every time with the general public, so imagine the employee engagement when we set up a professional film crew in your company’s lobby. We can train your staff in how to play The Think Game on their colleagues, who can then play it with others in a viral spiral of environmental engagement.
  • The Learn Game: The Think Game asks your opinion and leaves you wanting to know the Right and Wrong answers, which are provided by The Learn Game in an even more compelling, engaging and shareable activity. Players end up knowing more about the most impactful ways of reducing carbon than all the climate activists who’ve played it.

Schools Programmes

Many ESG/CSR programmes involve local schools. See Through News has loads, available via See Through Education, but here are a couple of our field-tested school-based projects.

  • How To Live Without Plastic is a simple, strong, flexible project. Younger children can participate via a video call with their grandparents, older children can engage with members of the public too.
  • The Vox Pox Project is a highly adaptable community-based project that combines learning basic filmmaking skills with media literacy, and very shareable localised content.

These can be delivered in isolation, or in different combinations, over short or long periods, to suit any company’s programme. 

There’s plenty more, too, but all See Through News Enterprises products share the same features: proven, effective, engaging ESG services that can measurably:

  • increase employee engagement in ESG
  • reduce carbon
  • satisfy internal and external ESG requirements is coming soon. 

Until then, if you want to know more